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California Wildfires; Air Quality In California; California Election Result; CIA Concludes Saudi Crowned Prince Ordered Khashoggi Killing; State Department: No Conclusion Yet on Khashoggi Killing; Sonia Sotomayor: What She Told Justice Kavanaugh When He Joined the Court; Trump on Pence: "I Don't Question His Loyalty at All"; Trump Answers Mueller's Written Questions. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired November 17, 2018 - 17:00   ET



ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: You are in the CNN newsroom. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thanks for being with me.

Breaking news. The nation's most desperate natural disaster right now. So much of California is burning. It is the deadliest scourge of wildfires there by far.

And making it all the more frightening, this destructive emergency is nowhere near over. From northern California above Sacramento to parts south around Los Angeles, Malibu, Thousand Oaks, San Bernardino. Almost a quarter million acres are burning this week, and that is area the size of Chicago and Boston combined.

President Trump today in California walking through the burned-out remains of family homes in what was the town of Paradise. It's gone. 90 percent of the houses and buildings there consumed by the wildfire.

A reporter there asked the president if seeing this destruction, smelling it, feeling it has changed his opinion on climate change. His answer, no.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does seeing this devastation change your opinion at all on climate change, Mr. President?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, no, I have a strong opinion. I want a great climate. We're going to have that. And we're going to have forests that are very safe, because we can't go through this. Every year we go through this. So, we're going to have safe forests. And that's happening as we speak.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said that fires -- you said there needs to be changed in fire management. Should the state, local and --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, we're going to work together with the federal government. No, state, local and federal government. The federal government is going to work with the state and local. And we're going to help them with funding. And we're going to take -- it's going to take a lot of funding. I will tell you that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should they have done things differently before this point?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A lot of things have been learned.


CABRERA: Also today, for the second straight day, the president repeated his theory as to what caused the fire disaster, the loss of homes, the heartbreaking loss of life. His explanation, a lack of raking.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was watching the firemen the other day, and they were raking areas. They were raking areas where the fire was right over there. And they are raking trees, little trees like that are -- not trees. Little bushes that you could see are totally dry. Weeds. And they're raking them. They are on fire. That should have been all raked out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about the argument --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about the --



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will be talking about forest management. I've been saying that for a long time. And this could have been a lot different situation.

You look at other countries where they do it differently. And it's a whole different story. I was with the president of Finland, and he said we have a much different -- we are a forest nation. He called it a forest nation. And they spend a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things and they don't have any problem.


CABRERA: The president toured burned-out towns in northern California earlier. He is now heading to other areas.

And CNN's Kaylee Hartung is in Chico, California. The president and his entourage just left there. Kaylee, bring us up to date.

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ana, President Trump conveyed his sadness at seeing the devastation here. But people here don't want to hear that consolation. People hear want the president's resources from the federal, state and local level. If you can see this operation behind me, this is completely volunteer organized operation, getting food and clothing, medical supplies to some people in this area who've lost everything.


(voice-over): The smoke from the campfire lingers. And survivors on the ground face a bleak picture. This makeshift campground in Wal- Mart parking lot is near the remnants of the town of Paradise. Many have lost everything.

These survivors are trying to catch their breath in the smoky air looking for answers to the question, what's next?

Did it burn down or didn't it burn down? And we just don't know. And it's hard to try to figure out your game plan when you don't know your game plan.

HARTUNG: Anna Goodnight and her husband, William, rushed out of their home. They were only able to grab medication and some important documents.

GOODNIGHT: We saw everything burning down as we were leaving off the hill. That was scary enough.

HARTUNG: They have no idea if their home is still standing. They are just glad they made it out alive.

GOODNIGHT: I hope there is some closures for the families that have lost family, because we have been hearing so many horror stories. But I'm sure it's going to get worse before it gets better.

KRYSTAL STIRRUP: We are living. There's a lot of people that didn't make it.

[17:05:00] HARTUNG: Krystal Stirrup survived hurricanes Andrew and Irma in Florida. She and her four young children were planning to make Paradise their new home.

(on camera): This was the start of the next chapter of your life, putting a down payment on an apartment in Paradise.

STIRRUP: Yes, I thought I was going to, you know, -- we were all happy and excited when they had actually called us and told us to come. Next week was supposed to be the time we were coming in. But everything is gone and I don't know what is the next step. I'm just winging it.

HARTUNG: Despite facing her own long road to recovery, Krystal has been visiting the people at the camp, offering to help however she can.

STIRRUP: I can't do anything but one day at a time. You know, it's out of my hands. Stay praying. Stay asking the lord to cover us or just cover them. Make sure they have a safe place to land in all of the situations. (END VIDEOTAPE)

HARTUNG: This donation center is just on the opposite side of the parking lot from where that pop-up campground has set up. And this white board, a place for people to come for additional information, like where they could go to shower. Other places they can relocate to that would be more permanent than a tent in this parking lot where new shelters are opening up.

But what is most striking is to see this list of names here. Looking for, phone numbers, other information to help people maybe find this list of names of people who is currently unaccounted for.

Local authorities, the latest list that they released, Ana, more than 1,000 names on it. They say that it's so difficult for them to pinpoint that number because so many people were displaced here. We're talking more than 50,000 people who were under evacuation orders as the campfire rolled through this area.

And so, authorities are combining information from incident reports, 911 calls. That has brought them to this list of more than 1,000 names. Anna, Goodnight, the woman who you saw me speaking to in that piece, she lived in paradise more than 10 years. I asked her if she's looked at this list of names and she told me, no. She said she's afraid to because she's afraid she will names of people she knows.

But authorities say if you do look at that list, if you see name on it, someone who is safe, please tell them. Because, otherwise, they are working one by one to ensure that everyone's accounted for.

CABRERA: A thousand plus people still missing. That is so hard to hear.

Kaylee, I'm wondering what you're hearing from the people you have been talking to about the president's visit. Because, as we know, officials in that state and the president haven't always had a real warm relationship, to say the least. Are the residents there happy to see the president come? Do they feel supported by his administration?

HARTUNG: Well, Ana, a lot of people here were outraged and hurt when they heard the president's first action to the devastation of this fire, be that of threatening to withhold federal funds for the state of California. But people also tell me, you know, this county needs all the help they can get.

So, if President Trump's visit here can put a spotlight on that devastation, if his visit here can help give him a better understanding of the need that exists, they say they welcome that visit. But, again, they need those resources. They need that support to do anything to continue a process of recovery.

CABRERA: All right. Kaylee Hartung in Chico, California for us. Thank you.

Meanwhile, in southern California, the Woolsey fire has scorched thousands of acres as well. Three people confirmed dead in that fire. There is some good news here. Firefighters are starting to get a handle on this fire. The Woolsey fire is now 82 percent contained.

And CNN's Kyung Lah is joining us from Thousand Oaks in southern California. Kyung, what is the latest there?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the firefighters, as you mentioned, they feel that they are truly making some serious progress on this fire. There are still some hot spots that they're working on.

And they're actually making stops at homes like this one. Earlier this day, the Ventura County Fire Department stopped here just to see if this homeowner needed some help. That there is still a lot of work to be done.

At this particular fire, the president is expected to make two different stops. We don't have a location for his second stop.

But press secretary, Sarah Sanders, did say that at his second stop, it would involve some of the people affected by the Borderline mass shooting. The Borderline Bar where 10 days ago 12 people were gunned down by a mass gunman who walked into that packed bar and began firing at people. It was in Thousand Oaks just a short drive from where I am in Thousand Oaks.

So, people had to deal with that mass shooting. Then, the very next day, the Woolsey fire started. So, the president will be in a second spot, expected to meet with some of those survivors, some of the people impacted, playing consoler in chief.

But while he was at that very first stop in Paradise, California, he was asked, as you played, Ana, whether or not he believed in climate change. If seeing all that devastation affected his opinion. He said, no.

And then, we heard from California's governor, who has been a very sharp critic of the president when it comes to that questioning of climate change.

[17:10:05] Here is what Governor Brown said.


GOV. JERRY BROWN (D), CALIFORNIA: I think if you can really look at the facts through a very open point of view, there are a lot of elements to be considered. And the president came, he saw, and I'm looking forward over the next months, and even beyond, to really understand this threat of fire, the whole matter of drought and all the rest of it. And it's not one thing. It's a lot of things. And I think if we just open our minds and look at things, we'll get more stuff done.


LAH: There is very little doubt, anyone who has spoken to the governor, as I have, and hearing him, really making some very unvarnished comments about the president. When he said open your mind, he certainly, Ana, was talking about President Trump -- Ana.

CABRERA: Kyung, given that they are starting to get some containment on that fire there, have residents that have evacuated been able to return to their neighborhood to see what the damage is?

LAH: Yes, we -- when we pulled up here to this particular house, the homeowner was just trying to find some of those heirlooms. What you see over and over again in these fires is that people want to go back to see if there's maybe, you know, family jewelry that they can recover. If there is bits of china from a couple of generations that they can bring back.

It's those little mementos that they really are trying to recover. And it's not just at this house, it's across this area. A lot of evacuation orders have been lifted. It has been a lot of heart break across Thousand Oaks.

CABRERA: Yes. We're looking at some of the images of the devastation there. Like you said, there's so much wreckage, so much destruction.

Thank you, Kyung Lah, for your ongoing reporting. We appreciate you bringing us the sights and sounds and reality on the ground.

Now, the smoke from these fires is so bad. California now has the worst air quality in the world. Details on that just ahead.

And also this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my gosh. There's explosions going on. I've got to open my window up. I can't breathe. Oh, my gosh. Oh, this is horrible. Oh, my gosh. Oh, my gosh, these poor people.


CABRERA: Trying to get out of the flames alive. More on this harrowing escape live in the CNN newsroom. Don't go anywhere.



CABRERA: As the president visits fire-ravaged parts of California today, more incredible tales of survival are surfacing of families desperately trying to escape the deadly wildfires. I want you to watch this dramatic video showing the fear and the shock of one family driving through their neighborhood going up in flames.


LOURIE JONES: This is a fire going down Skyway by the health center. Going down Skyway, there's fire like crazy. I don't know if you can see it. Oh, my gosh, the whole side there. Get in. Oh, my gosh, look to the right, that house is on fire.


JONES: Look at that. Oh, my gosh. Oh, my gosh. Robert, get in here now.


JONES: Oh, my gosh. This is (INAUDIBLE.) We're in hell. Look at right here.


JONES: Shut your window, quick, quick, quick, quick.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're having us drive this way?

JONES: Oh, my gosh, look at all these houses are gone. This is horrible. Look at this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you videotaping?

JONES: Yes, I'm videotaping.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are your lights on?

JONES: Yes. You can't even see them. Oh, my gosh. There's explosions going on. I've got to put my window up. I can't breathe. Oh, my gosh. Oh, this is horrible. Oh, my gosh. Oh, my gosh. These poor people.


CABRERA: The nightmare-ish reality of what the campfire left behind is simply staggering; 71 people have now died in just that fire alone. Three more in a second wildfire.

Officials say more than 1,000 people are unaccounted for or reported missing. Thousands of survivors are now homeless, living in emergency shelters and makeshift tent cities, like the one Kaylee Hartung showed us.

And while California residents are still reeling from the aftermath of these fires, the smoke is now causing an air-quality emergency. Winds causing that smoke to spread all across the U.S., especially on the western portion, blanketing towns with toxic smog.

This is what it looks like more than 150 miles away from the campfire. In San Francisco, thick, hazardous smog, dozens of schools and transit systems forced to close, due to the low advisability and the toxic air quality.

CNN Meteorologist Jean Norman is joining us now. Jean, fill us in, just how bad is the air quality and how far could it spread?

GENE NORMAN, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, Ana, you mentioned a little bit -- a while ago, that we have some of the worst air quality in the world right now, even worse than China and India. And I've been tracking it throughout the day. And in the San Joaquin Valley, here's what we are looking at. Values in the healthy and very unhealthy range colored in red or in purple. And the arrows next to these indicate the tendency, over the last couple of hours.

And, in many ways, while this is a bad news' story because of poor air quality, there is some good news in that values of Chico have come down to 206. They get below 200. And that box will change from purple to red. But everybody else remaining in the red category. Definitely not a good situation. But the values have been coming down a little bit.

And as you saw from that other video, it's not just that there's trees on fire, of course structures have burned. And that is adding to the toxic problem for the air. Carbon monoxide is being released and that poisons the red blood cells. You can't even get any oxygen. Secondly, nitrogen dioxide, which dissolves in the lung creating kind of like an acid.

[17:20:12] So, where is it going to spread? It's going to continue to head on into sections of not only California but the Pacific Northwest. There's an air quality alert in effect for the San Joaquin Valley as we head into -- through -- actually until Tuesday. And then, there is also an air stagnation alert for the Pacific Northwest.

Good news, Ana, is that we are expecting a series of storms to move in between now and just after Thanksgiving. That will help bring this area some much needed relief.

CABRERA: Fingers crossed. Jean Norman, thank you for the information.

You can find out how to help people affected by the fires by going to, slash, impact. A startling revelation from the CIA. The spy agency pins the murder of a Saudi journalist, living in the United States, directly on the Saudi crowned prince. Details on this just ahead in the CNN newsroom.



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CABRERA: The breaking news just in to CNN, the Florida governor's race is officially over. Democrat Andrew Gillum has conceded to Republican Ron DeSantis.

And CNN's Dan Merica is joining us now from Tallahassee. Dan, this race is one of the three in Florida that have dragged on passed Election Day. What did Gillum say in his concession?

DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Yes. Gillum gave a really casual concession, standing basically on a -- what looked like a lake shore. I'm assuming here in Tallahassee, where he is the mayor. He and his wife standing there. He not only says that he was -- that the race was over. He thanked Ron DeSantis, his Republican opponent. And congratulated him as the next governor of Florida.

He also said this was about more than just this race. He admitted he wanted to be governor more than anybody else. But this was a bigger movement. Frankly, this was a long-time coming for Andrew Gillum. His race was not subject to that hand recount that Bill Nelson's race has been subject to. So, his race and the numbers were pretty much final a few days ago when the machine recount was finished.

Now, that put a lot of pressure on Mr. Gillum to decide what he was going to do, at this point. And there were even some Democrats in this state who admitted it seemed like it was over for someone who is a rising star in this party. There are Democrats, not just here in Florida, but around the country, who view what he has done in this race as a career moment for him. And something that could set him up for something in the future.

What he has done now, by conceding, by admitting this was -- this was the end of his race, he has kind of set him out -- himself out, taken a step back. And now, he becomes a figure in the party. And it really is going to be an interesting question to see what he does next.

What this also does is it puts a lot of pressure on Senator Bill Nelson, who trails Governor Rick Scott by about 12,000 votes in his race for another term in the U.S. Senate. The manual recount, that hand recount we've been talking about of over and under votes, will be finished tomorrow. You know, Democrats, for a while, have been saying they're going to stick in this race until every legal vote is counted.

Now, at that point, at noon tomorrow, when the hand recount is finished, that's about the point when you can say every vote has been counted. There's a lot of pressure on Bill Nelson to figure out, is that the moment that he gets tout of the race or could there be more legal challenges in the future? Those have not gone the way of Bill Nelson, frankly. He has had a number of cases here in Tallahassee before Judge Mark Walker down the street at federal court. Those have not gone their way, frankly.

And so, it remains to be seen whether Bill Nelson will continue with that path and or whether he'll follow Andrew Gillum and possibly concede his race to Governor Rick Scott -- Ana.

CABRERA: All right. Now, has there been a response from DeSantis?

MERICA: We have not seen a response from DeSantis. I guess we can now say governor-elect DeSantis. He has, frankly, just gone about the business of what the governor-elect would have done. He's put together a transition. And his team has been here in Tallahassee for a few days going about what a governor-elect would do, putting together a plan for when he would take over as governor of the state of Florida.

Frankly, that's what Rick Scott has done as well. After the votes were a few -- Election Day here in Florida, Rick Scott flew up to Washington D.C. for what is basically orientation for new senators. Kind of signaling that he is moving on with the fact that he thinks he's going to be the next senator from the state of Florida.

Both Republicans doing that, it was a hint that they think they're going to come out -- they're going to turn out victorious in both of these races.

CABRERA: All right. We'll have more information tomorrow at that noon deadline, when all the hand recounts need to be completed and the official results submitted. Thank you very much. Dan Merica for us.

Some new developments in the investigation into the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The State Department now says the U.S. government has not reached a final conclusion yet on who is responsible for Khashoggi's death, saying there are still many unanswered questions. And this follows reports that the CIA has determined that the Saudi crown prince, Mohammad Bin Salman, personally ordered Khashoggi's death.

President Trump was briefed today by both the secretary of state and the CIA director. Here's what he said this morning before getting that update.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, we also have a great ally in Saudi Arabia. They give us a lot of jobs. They give us a lot of business, a lot of economic development. They are -- they have been a truly spectacular ally, in terms of jobs and economic development.

[17:30:02] And I also take that -- you know, I'm president. I have to take a lot of things into consideration.


CABRERA: You'll recall when Khashoggi first went missing last month, the president effectively drew a red line.



[17:30:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They are a -- they have been a truly spectacular ally in terms of jobs and economic development. I also take that -- you know, I'm president and I have to take a lot of things into consideration.


ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You'll recall when Khashoggi first went missing last month, the president effectively drew a red line, telling reporters that he was not willing to touch an expensive Saudi arms deal as punishment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: I will tell you up front right now, and I'll say it in front of Senators, they're spending $110 billion purchasing military equipment and other things. If we don't sell it to them, they'll say, well, thank you very much, we'll buy it from Russia, or thank you very much, we'll buy it from China. That doesn't help us.


CABRERA: The president has side cited this arms deal multiple times.

Here's the thing though, $110 billion Saudi arms deal has been brokered but what that really means is the Saudis have only said they intend to spend $110 billion over the next 10 years. And as of right now, there are only letters of interest and intent. And those add up to just $14.5 billion. Still President Trump keeps citing this deal, stating the money has and the jobs are too important to lose.

And each time he does this, here's what critics are accusing him of turning a blind eye to. The murder and the dismemberment of Journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi. Also the ongoing Saudi- lead war in Yemen, a war that's already killed tens of thousands of people through bombs and starvation. And there are other alleged human rights violations. But here are some of the main points. Almost anyone in Saudi Arabia who criticizes the government may be punished. The punishments can include lengthy prison sentences, like 15 years in one case, just for speaking out peacefully. There are also physical punishments like floggings, lashes, even beheadings. Women have it especially hard, according to human rights activists. Not only do they do not have the same rights as men but they have to get permission from a male guardian before traveling abroad, getting a passport, getting married or, in some instances, getting an apartment. Religious minorities and homosexuals are also discriminated against, as well as migrants used as forced labor at times.

I want to discuss this with Max Boot, senior global affairs analyst, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of "Corrosion of Conservatism, Why I Left the Right." Also with us Steve Hall, CNN national security analyst and retired CIA chief of Russia operations.

Max, the State Department spokeswoman saying in a statement today, "Recent reports indicate that the U.S. government has made a final conclusion on Khashoggi death are inaccurate, and that there are still a number of questions that need to be answered." And she goes on to say, "Those involved will be held accountable."

I'm wondering what your reaction is this, of course, coming on heels of reporting that the CIA has determined that the Saudi crown prince was directly involved.

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, that State Department statement is deeply disingenuous. Heather is right, the U.S. government has not made a determination. But only reason they have not is because President Trump and Secretary Pompeo are engaged in cover up to cover up the complicity of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. The CIA has said high confidence they are certain the intelligence is rock solid that the crowns prince was behind the murder. And that is logical because no one knows this is not carried out without the go ahead from the crown prince. What you are seeing now is the Trump administration is trying to protect him from this crime.

CABRERA: Steve, how can CIA be so sure that the Saudi crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman, was personally involved, that he, in fact, ordered this killing? Would they have the proof?

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, the situation is something like this, Ana, this is the distinction between the State Department and CIA and the Intelligence Community. The State Department goes out and talks to members of the foreign government to get whatever they can. The CIA and the other members of the intelligence organizations that are out there working for the U.S. go out and steal secrets. Whoever killed Khashoggi and who was responsible in the chain of command in all of those questions are state secrets. And CIA and other members of the Intelligence Community have come up with the intelligence which supports the assessment, which Max is absolutely right, has high degree of believability according to the Intelligence Community.

Donald Trump has the facts. The CIA, Gina Haspel and others, have told him what the facts are. What he chooses to do with those facts is a matter of policy and we'll have to see where that comes out.

But the State Department's comment that while we are not exactly sure, in the world of intelligence, you are never 100 percent sure. But if you've get intelligence and you're expressing that high degree of confidence in it, it's pretty sure we know what happened. What Trump does with it we'll see.

[17:35:19] CABRERA: Do you see it, Steve, as the president once again not believing his own intelligence or just choose to go turn a blind eye?

HALL: You know, any president would be in a difficult situation. Because, you know, we have a relationship with Saudi Arabia. They have done some very heinous and bad things. Now we have the intelligence, which tells us precisely what to do. But you are right. The back story with this president and his Intelligence Community, you know, calling them Nazis, making other disparaging comments against former senior members of the Intelligence Community. My inclination, if you had to bet, Donald Trump would look at the Intelligence Community and do what he's done in the past, which is to I don't believe them, I'm not sure they have all the information we absolutely need. His previous bad relationship with the Intelligence Community, I think, is an important thing to consider when you look at his reaction.

CABRERA: Now, the Saudi government has charged 11 people in Khashoggi's death. Five of them are facing capital punishment.

Here is what Senator Bob Corker tweeted about this today, "Everything points to the Saudi crown prince of Saudi Arabia in, yes, ordering the Jamal Khashoggi killing. The Trump administration should make a credible determination of responsibility before MbS executes the men who apparently carried out his orders."

Max, do you agree with Senator Corker? What could the U.S. do?

BOOT: Absolutely. I think it's imperative to get the facts to call for an international tribunal to do a fair and impartial investigation instead of this coverup that the Saudis are carrying out. And the Senator Corker is absolutely right, the Saudi government is are going to rush to execute some of these henchmen who carried out MbS's orders to protect MbS, and then it will be much harder to get the iron-clad evidence that can stand in court. I think it is imperative for the U.S. to stand up for this journalist that wrote for the "Washington Post," who was an American resident. There's a lot the U.S. can do. We have a lot of leverage and bipartisan support in Congress for ending U.S. arms supplies for the Saudi war in Yemen. And also holding whoever is accountable here holding them accountable via sanctions. So far, the Trump administration has done sanctions to 17 Saudis but these are lower-level individuals. This is an attempt to protect the crown prince. And if the crowns prince was, in fact, responsible for this murder, as the CIA has concluded, I think we need to be looking at sanctions on the crown prince as well. There's a lot of bipartisan agreement from both sides, Lindsey Graham and Bob Menendez and others in Congress, to do just that. But clearly, President Trump doesn't care about this murder. He doesn't care about morality and U.S. foreign policy or standing up for a free press. All he cares about is the arms deals, which as you pointed out, are wildly exaggerated. Not factual that -- you won't get over $100 billion in arms sales. He's making that up. But he's just looking for excuses to protect the crown prince who has forged a close relationship with the American crown prince, Jared Kushner.

CABRERA: Max Boot, Steve Hall, thank you both.

HALL: Sure.

CABRERA: Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor speaking out. What she said to her newest colleague on the high court after his contentious confirmation fight, that's just ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[17:43:07] Midterm voters confirmed what we already knew, this nation is divided. The contentious confirmation process for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh further highlighted the split with emotions heightened on both sides. But can the highest court in the land bridge the partisan divide in closed chambers? Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor joins CNN's David Axelrod for the "AXE FILES" and shared what she told Justice Kavanaugh when he joined the court.


DAVID AXELROD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR & CNN HOST, "AXE FILES": I know you guys are sort of cloistered but not cocooned. We came through this acrimonious process of confirmation. How do you view it from the inside? How does the court and family community adjust to those moments?

SONIA SOTOMAYOR, U.S. SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: I'm going to steal a line from one of my colleagues, a story, actually, not a line.


SOTOMAYOR: And it was Justice Thomas who tells me that when he first came to the court another justice approached him and said, I judge you by what you do here, welcome. And I repeated that story to Justice Kavanaugh when I first greeted him here.

Now, I've known him, and of his work, but when you are charged with working together for most of the remainder of your life, you have to create a relationship. The nine of us are now a family. And we are a family with each of us, our own burdens and our own obligations to others. But this is our work family. And it's just as important as our personal family. We probably spend more time with each other than most justices spend, who have spouses, with their spouses.


CABRERA: David Axelrod, CNN political commentator and host of the "AXE FILES" is joining us now

David, always good to see you. We look forward to hearing that more tonight.

[17:45:08] AXELROD: Hey, Ana.

CABRERA: Did Justice Sotomayor express any concern about the bench leaning right.

AXELROD: She didn't express those concerns. She resisted those characteristics but she did allow she expects she might be dissenting more in the future. She's very concerned, however, about how the country sees the court and what these hearings and what this process does to public perceptions of the court. And spoke very eloquently about that.

CABRERA: The Democrats have won the House. President Trump is said to be in a foul mood. The "New York Times" even saying the president is questioning Vice President Mike Pence's loyalty. The president responding to this report saying, "The president absolutely supports the vice president and thinks he's doing an incredible job helping to carry out the mission and policies of this administration."

As you know, David, changes in the White House after midterms are not uncommon. You left your role as senior advisor to President Obama shortly after the 2010 election. What do you think is going on behind the scenes?

AXELROD: It sounds pretty chaotic. Look, this is a president who grew up with a father who told him that the world divides into two categories, there are killers and there are losers. And it was very clear which one he was to be. The last thing that he wants is to be viewed as a looser. And he was a looser in these midterm elections. By and large, it was a pretty substantial rebuke to him and really his style of leadership. Because when you consider the state of the economy, you would expect that his party would do better. So I think this was very bothersome to him. He had just spent several months in front of adoring audiences. Perhaps he had different expectation for the election. But the election went badly. And it isn't Donald Trump's practice to have these moments of introspection and ask himself, what did I do wrong. His fundamental impulse is to point to everybody around him and say what did you guys do wrong. And I think that's what's going on now.

CABRERA: The midterms may be one thing influencing the president's thinking. We also know the president has been huddling with his lawyers this week answering Robert Mueller's questions. President Trump telling us on Friday that he himself has written the answers and described the questions as easy. Does that surprise you?

AXELROD: Well, not only does it surprise me, but I don't believe it. I don't think that he's writing these answers. If he is, his lawyers should have a sense of terror. I mean, the fact is that this is serious business. I suspect that the special counsel knows more than anyone but Donald Trump himself about what has transpired around him. And so he has to be very, very conscious of that as these questions are sent in. I've never thought of him as much of a writer. He didn't write his own books. And I don't expect that he's writing these answers now.

CABRERA: As we look to 2020, you were there with Obama as he prepared to run for president. Here we are two years out. What would you be advising 2020 hopefuls at this point? Should they lay low or should they be leading the opposition against Trump?

AXELROD: Well, I don't think that they should -- you know, I think there's going to be a temptation among these candidates to out flank each out as anti-Trump candidate. I think one of the things we saw in the last election, the midterm election, is candidates who did not spend all their time talking about Donald Trump but rather talking about how we bring the American community back together, candidates who treated everyone with respect, whether they were opponents or not, did very well. Even Beto O'Rourke, who didn't win in Texas, did better than anyone else in Texas on the Democratic line in 20 years, in part, because he went to every county in that state, even the reddest of counties, and treated voters with respect. He faced them openly and honestly, shared his views and heard theirs. I think there's a lesson in that for Democratic candidates. People won't be looking for someone who is the most vehement anti-Trump candidate. They'll be looking for someone who offers hope for the country that they'll govern in a different way than Trump. And that's going to be most important I think.

CABRERA: You think Beto would be a good 2020 candidate?

AXELROD: Well, I think he's going to be under a lot of pressure to run. I don't know, honestly, Ana, who the best candidate for the Democrat Party would be. I never felt more the need for a primary for a party than I do right now. Because there are a lot of talented people, but it's not clear who would be the best candidate. The primary can be very clarifying in that regard. And I think that primary is going to start very soon. So sorry you weary voters. I think you can take Thanksgiving off and then it's off to the races again.

[17:50:03] CABRERA: It's hard to remember what happened two weeks ago. In two weeks from now, it's hard to know where we'll be.

David Axelrod, always good to see you.

AXELROD: Thank you.

CABRERA: Thank you so much.

AXELROD: Thanks, Ana.

CABRERA: Have a lovely Thanksgiving. Thank you.

AXELROD: Same to you and your family.

CABRERA: Thanks.

To see more of David's interview with Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, be sure to tune in to the "AXE FILES," tonight, at 7:00 p.m. eastern, right here on CNN.


CABRERA: According to the Centers for Disease Control, homicide is the number-one cause of death for black men ages 15 to 34. This grim statistic caused an emergency room doctor to take action. He's one of our top-10 "CNN Heroes" for 2018.


[17:55:07] ROBERT GORE, EMERGENCY ROOM DOCTOR: I don't like pronouncing people dead. It's probably the worst thing that I've ever had to do. I want to preserve life. When I see patients coming in with violent injuries, when somebody looks like you from your neighborhood, a lot of this stuff hits home. You realize I don't want this to happen anymore. What do we do about it?

How's it going? You all right?

It's important that we start training young people and helping them learn how to become change agents working with them on a middle school level.


CABRERA: Vote for any of your favorite top-10 heroes right now at

I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York. Thanks for being with me.

My colleague, S.E. Cupp continues our coverage of today's news right after a quick break.